Leon Schools Superintendent becomes latest local official backing Loranne Ausley’s re-election
Loranne Ausley. Image via Colin Hackley

A half dozen leaders and officials have come forward for the vulnerable incumbent recently, including several in education.

Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna has joined the stream of city and county officials announcing their support for Sen. Loranne Ausley.

Ausley, a Democrat from Tallahassee, is in the battle of her political life against Republican Corey Simon in Senate District 3. In the run-up to Election Day, her campaign has published a series of endorsements from former and current officials in the hopes of bolstering her chances against her well-recognized challenger, who was a star football player for Florida State University.

The endorsement from Hanna, who last year supported mask mandates for county schools and who recently criticized Republican efforts to expand school vouchers in Florida, follows that of Leon County School Board Chair Darryl Jones, who endorsed Ausley last week. They are among a half dozen leaders and officials from Leon and Gadsden counties who have gone public with their support for Ausley the last two weeks.

“As our State Senator, Loranne is a proven champion for public education who fights for students from every background and every zip code to have equal opportunities in the classroom and in life,” Hanna said. “Loranne has worked to increase funding for our public schools, make schools safer, and fights for teachers to be respected and paid as the professionals they are.”

Ausley and Democratic re-election efforts have hammered Simon for his support for strengthening the guardian program and tied him to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ call to pass a permitless carry bill based on Simon’s support for the Second Amendment.

“Unlike her opponent, who will undercut our public schools and supports open carry on campus, Loranne has our backs and has always been here when we needed her,” Hanna continued.

On Monday, Democratic consultant Matt Isbell, who is known mainly for his political breakdowns and map explainers of the Florida electoral landscape, released his state Senate ratings, including his prediction that Simon will unseat Ausley. If Republicans win SD 3, that would put them in a position to secure a three-fifths majority in the Florida Senate.

Central to Ausley’s re-election effort has been touting her history of support for young Floridians, such as on early childhood education, access to child care and health care.

“I am proud to be endorsed by my friend, Superintendent Rocky Hanna in our campaign to put North Florida students and families first,” Ausley said.

“Everyday, we entrust teachers to care for and set our children on a path towards lifelong success. As lawmakers, we must empower our teachers and equip them the tools they need to give all students a quality education. An investment into our schools is an investment in our future.”

Ausley served in the House from 2000 to 2008 and 2016 to 2020 and was elected to the Senate in 2020. She won her seat by 7 percentage points in 2020, but redistricting has shifted the North Florida district from one that favored President Joe Biden by 9 points to one that would have voted for him by only 3 points. Moreover, Simon is viewed as a stronger and better-funded candidate than her previous challenger.

Simon is a former Florida State University and National Football League football player and former CEO of Volunteer Florida who is in his first campaign for office. DeSantis and Republican Senate leadership are endorsing him.

The race is not without controversy. Ausley and party officials have come under fire for a mailer from Senate Democrats that hits Simon on gun control. The ad places pictures of both children and Simon — a Black man — on shooting targets, a move deemed insensitive and possibly racist by some.

And during the pair’s first debate last week, Simon refused to say President Joe Biden was legitimately elected. In comments to Florida Politics, he blamed distrust in the 2020 election on the national media.

On Monday, Democratic Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried came out in support of Ausley, as did retired educator Cheryl Collier Brown.

“Loranne Ausley will continue to keep partisan politics out of our classrooms and put focus on what’s really important: educating our children,” Brown said.

And on Tuesday, Gadsden County leader and local attorney Marva Davis endorsed Ausley.

“Loranne’s Republican opponent Corey Simon is an election-denier who will vote against our best interests, and put politics before our kids and our community,” Davis said.

SD 3 covers Dixie, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lafayette, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Suwannee, Taylor and Wakulla counties.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


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